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Book Review: Tonight We Rule the World by Zack Smedley

When I’m reviewing books for professional publications, I stay quiet about them on social media. I’m always really excited once a review comes out to be able to talk about the book, finally! Here’s one of my most recent reviews, which originally appeared in an issue of School Library Journal.

Page Street. Oct. 2021. 352p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781645673323.

Gr 9 Up–A sexual assault, the secrets surrounding it, and the resulting trauma reshape everything high school senior Owen understands to be true. Switching between earlier diaries and the current time line, Owen, who is on the autism spectrum, details his relationship with his girlfriend, do-gooder perfectionist Lily. Neither Lily nor their friends blink when Owen comes out as bisexual, but the night he reveals this information on social media he is sexually assaulted while on a class trip. He tries to keep the report of his rape and the ensuing investigation secret from Lily, as things between them are already strained and stressful. Though Owen knows who raped him, he refuses to tell the school, his parents, or the authorities. He grapples with what happened to him while trying to figure out if he can do the relationship reset that Lily desperately wants. Owen works through the hurdles that trauma brings, eventually confronting his abuser and revealing their identity to his parents. The intricate layers, stunning revelations, and powerful emotions in this story will captivate readers as well as help them overlook some of the flaws—mainly uneven writing. The structure of the novel, partially told through diary entries, successfully adds suspense and shows how difficult it can be to move forward and just exist in the aftermath of a horrific incident.

VERDICT A painful and important look at toxic relationships, rape, power, and control from a vantage point not often seen in YA.

The Billie Eilish Readalike Playlist

Billie Eilish has been popular in my house for a while now, probably since first hearing the song Lovely back in 2018. My favorite Billie Eilish song is “You Should See Me in a Crown”, while Thing 2 seems particularly fond of “Bad Guy”. So the other day, as I watched a group of pre-teen and teen girls choreograph a dance to a Billie Eilish song, I had a moment of inspiration: I wonder if I could create a reading RA list based on Billie Eilish songs. So I sat down and started researching her various songs and what they meant. It turns out, there are websites that help you do this.

I then started getting serious about this project. I even turned it into an RA sheet for my work. So what follows is a list of a variety of YA books based on theme and song that teens may enjoy reading if they like the music of Billie Eilish. This was a fun list to create, and it is by no means complete. It only touches on a few of her songs and even on those songs there are a lot more books we could add. So if you have some titles you would like to add, please feel free to do so.

Books About Toxic Relationships

“Bad Guy”, “When the Party’s Over” and several other Billie Eilish songs are about toxic relationships, both romantic and friendships. So here are a few YA books about toxic relationships that your teens may be interested in reading.

You Should See Me in a Crown

“You Should See Me in a Crown” is inspired by the BBC series Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch. In it Andrew Scott, also known as the Hot Priest from Fleabag, plays Moriarty, Sherlock’s arch-nemesis. At one point he proclaims, “you should see me in a crown.” The rest is history. The series is a lot of fun and was extremely popular, I even had a very successful Sherlock party at the time. So here are a bunch of Sherlock retellings or books that are Sherlock Holmes like that teen readers will find interesting.

Books About Mental Health and Depression

One of Billie Eilish’s early hits was a song called “lovely” that she sings with Khalid. It’s a very melancholy song about mental health and depression and it appears on the soundtrack for the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. The title began kind of as a kind of sarcastic nod to how depressing the song is. While listening to it someone said, “oh how lovely” and the rest, as they say, is history. Here a few YA books about mental health and depression that your teens may like.

Dark Books about Dark People doing Dark Things

“Belly Ache” and “Bad Guy” are told from the point of view of monsters, whether that means psychopaths or literal monsters depends on the song. Billie Eilish has stated in many interviews that she likes to write songs that tell the story from the point of view from the monster under your bed. Here are several YA books that are about psychopaths and monsters.

Climate Change

Billie Eilish is an advocate for knowing and working to fix climate change. The topic of climate change appears in her most recent video “All the Good Girls Go to Hell”. Here are a few YA fiction titles on climate change that teens may be interested in reading. If you are Googling for additional titles, you may want to also search under the term “cli-fi”, which is a shortened version of climate change.

Basically Dark, Twisted and Kind of Awesome

If you had to describe Billie Eilish’s aesthetic, you might say she is basically dark, twisted and a lot of fun. So here are a bunch of YA books that are basically dark, twisted and a lot of fun. I like to think that Billie Eilish would like these books and recommend them to her fans.